Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “We tell ourselves lies to survive when we know the truth will kill us.”
A mysterious woman attempts to steal a piece of her past only to be detained by its current owner. When she makes him an offer he can’t refuse, the unknown story of how one of the richest and most distinguished bourbon empires, Red Thread, rose and fell, in return for the very last bottle of Red Thread bourbon in the world, he reluctantly agrees to hear her out.
From the first sentence, Connor McQueen is held spellbound by the seductive Paris and the thrilling saga as she reveals almost all the tantalizing secrets of a family whose rise to wealth and fame was fueled by obsession and betrayal only to be brought down by love and revenge.
“I can tell you what happened to Red Thread. The whole truth. The whole story. […] By the time I’m done telling you the story, you’ll hand over the bottle with your compliments and an apology.”
Alternating between the bourbon soaked bluegrass of Kentucky and the sun-drenched shores of South Carolina, Reisz paints a fascinating and shocking portrait of a young spoiled heiress, Tamara Maddox, who soon discovers her place in the family tapestry is nothing more than a series of tangled threads knotted by deception and betrayal. On her sixteenth birthday, she learns the lap of luxury that has benevolently cradled her from birth to now is rotten to the core and her fall from grace is a harsh lesson learned. Using her wits and the strength of the Maddox name, Tamara defies her intended legacy and formulates a plan to take back her place in this world and make it pay with the help of a man whose own connection to the Maddox’s also flows through his blood.
A family with bourbon in the blood and blood on their hands.
Fans familiar with Tiffany Reisz’s erotically charged Original Sinners series will notice that The Bourbon Thief is not her usual fare. Though containing many of the attributes that are often found in her writing, this rich fictional drama does not contain the erotic backbone that usually runs down the center of Reisz’s stories. Two female voices alternate telling this decades-old story, one from the part and one from the present, using humor, seduction, and anger to shine a blinding spotlight on the sordid past that created and eventually destroys the Maddox family from within. Fast pacing and the smooth flowing storyline is heavily influenced by the narrative as the reader becomes instantly captivated by the strong elements of romance and mystery that surround this cast of intriguingly flawed characters.
“Who are you really?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“I told you why. The truth is like bourbon-it’ll burn going down.”
“I want to burn.”
I fell in love with the main protagonists- Tamara and Levi. Their evolution from friendly antagionts to passionate lovers is bathed in dramatically fueled emotions and scenes that made me reminisce of the older Danielle Steele novels I used to devour when I was younger. Reisz builds their story from layers, using Paris as the narrator and seamlessly transitioning between their voices. Starting from the beginning, we, like McQueen, are held hostage by the mysterious Paris as she slowly doles out the background and clues we need to get to know the two people whose destinies will not be denied.
“Fate was what brought them together. Fate was what brought about the end of Red Thread. And fate is just another name for a train that cannot stop until it reaches its final destination.”
Tamara is a heroine whose seemingly soft compliance is belayed by her spine of steel. Young, spirited, and usually faced with no greater decision than what to wear on any given day, when she is suddenly faced with incredible odds, she perseveres and overcomes. Levi, a stable hand on her grandfather’s estate, is a sweetly contained contradiction. Older than Tamara, this philosopher of life who can quote Shakespeare and soap opera dialogue on a whim struggles to control his and Tamara’s growing feelings for one another, using her age and the differences in their stations to push her away. When Tamara comes for him years later, demanding he make a stand, we see a hero who isn’t the alpha of today who sweeps in and saves the day but rather one stands by her side and is happy to be used as the sword of vengeance she wields with stunning precision. Their whimsical banter and beguiling sexual chemistry is a delightful contrast to the overall seriousness of the storyline.
“Goddammit, Tamara, you are driving me crazy.”
Tamara stood up and grabbed her sundress, shook out the sand and shimmied into it. “You were born crazy, “ Tamara said as she yanked her dress into place. “I’m just driving you home.”
A solid personable secondary cast of characters stay just enough in the background to offer aid or hinder our couple from the sidelines without casting a shadow over our protagonists and their developing story. Each person’s background and connection to Levi and Tamara is thoroughly examined and remarked upon, providing more answers to the questions popping up as the events unfold.
The mystery behind the eventual destruction of Red Thread, the Maddox family, and Paris’s connection to it is altogether a dramatic and bittersweet tale that left me saddened and pleased by the long twisted road Reisz chose to led us down towards the truth. What you expect and what you eventually get are two very different things. Though the ending is subjective, there are some questions and certain subplots left unresolved, the main conflict is laid to rest and readers will be pleased to see Paris is indeed rewarded for her story… just as she predicted.